Another San Lorenzo Valley Sunday, charcoal burning everywhere . . .
A few items culled over an unreasonably hot week here in Felton — we’re talking the area being Miami with redwoods (but thankfully without humidity) — include:
Schrodinger’s Cat lives: After a go/no-go meeting last week which sided with the former, Fedora 19 “Schrodinger’s Cat” went gold and gets a non-radioactive green light for Tuesday, July 2. Curious about it, I downloaded the beta and put it on a Toshiba Satellite L455, ahem, “laptop” — a laptop if your lap is the size of, say, Andre the Giant’s — and the silver behemoth ran the beta flawlessly. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t review distro alphas or betas because it’s akin to sticking your finger in a bowl of batter and writing about how good (or bad) the cake will be once it’s finished.
I can tell you this: I do like what Fedora has done with the install process, so much so that it was worth the wait when Fedora 18 was delayed (and I could take this opportunity to launch into why a six-month release cycle leaves a lot to be desired, but I won’t, even though I just did). In addition, I think this one will be a good one, but you’ll have to find out when I write about it next week. Get more information, and take the living cat out of the box on Tuesday, here.
The best distros: Last week, I said that a FOSSForce.com write-up a few weeks ago about what constitutes a community distro was an “uncharacteristically ludicrous article posted by the usually right-on-the-mark” site for FOSS news and commentary. As a blogger, I live in the glass house known as FOSS commentary and, regardless, I still reserve the right to throw stones. I can also admit without reservation or apology that the history of this blog is strewn with dozens of blogged eggs laid over the past several years; enough eggs to feed omelets to a small army during the course of a military campaign.
That said, I should clarify that I thought the message, not the messenger, was sorely lacking. But Christine Hall makes up for the article I slammed, and gains extra yardage on the play, by writing a great “top five” distro article which concludes — spoiler alert — with this: “Just keep in mind, there really isn’t a best Linux distro, or even a list of five best Linux distros. There’s only a best distro for you, the job you need it to do and the equipment on which you need it to operate.”
Amen to that, Christine, and thanks for reciting the Larry the Free Software Guy mantra.
Widespread adoption of Unity? Not exactly: Like FOSSForce.com, LXer.com is also one of my daily stops on the web for news and commentary. Also, more entertaining is visiting the LXer.com discussion forums — yes, that’s a reflection of how exciting my life is; deal with it (I have) — and finding some interesting morsels.
One item has an original poster bemoaning the fact that people continue to beat up on Unity. While I find it hard to agree with his premise — for a variety of reasons on several levels, Unity deserves its reputation as the pinata it has become in the tech press, with little in the way of argument against — it did prompt me to think about this question: If Unity is such an outstanding desktop environment, why hasn’t it been widely adopted by other distros?
Think about it. Personal preferences aside, a metric which speaks to how good, or not, a desktop environment is would be its adoption by other distros. So you could describe Unity as having widespread appeal if you define “widespread appeal” as being adopted by 10 — count ‘em, 10 — distros other than Ubuntu.
If you’re keeping score at home, here’s the list of distros other than Ubuntu using Unity as a default desktop environment (with DistroWatch ranking in parentheses): DreamStudio (49), The People’s Republic of China’s Ubuntu Kylin (105), Hybride Linux (108), Vinux (110), Leeenux (165); Bio-Linux (174), Ubuntu Christian Edition (188), Oz Unity (195), iQuinixOS (261), and Baltix GNU/Linux (274).
OK, so I would argue that it’s not widespread adoption, for reasons I’ve mentioned in past blog posts — the posts you couldn’t scramble and serve with toast.
Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence rides again. We’re going to take Software Freedom Day in September and make it SFD-Lindependence Felton 2012, with all the trappings of the first one. More on this as plans develop. I would urge any group — Linux User Group, FOSS software-specific user groups, even the sectarian Ubuntu LoCos — to participate in Software Freedom Day by signing up here.
See you next Sunday, if not sooner.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)
You would think that during the 13 years of Catholic school I proudly survived (one, interestingly, in which Bill O’Reilly was my 10th grade American History teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in suburban Miami), I would have remembered the part about Christianity and capitalism being one and the same thing.
Yet, over the last couple of days, I’ve had interactions — I wouldn’t necessarily call them “conversations” — with a Christian blogger who posted comments on my last two blogs, and who seems to think that those of us who are advocating FOSS are a bunch of pot-smoking, porn-surfing “librals”(his word, not mine) who are part of a communist plot to overrun the U.S. Not only this, it appears his beliefs run along the lines that Christianity and capitalism are synonymous, inseparably joined at the hip.
[As an aside, there is a great song by Todd Snider, "Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican Straight White American Males" and the YouTube watch is well worth it.]
Nevertheless, the false theory that capitalism and Christianity are one and the same — the CEO Jesus Version 1.0 that this blogger seems to deify — started me thinking about a couple of things, namely:
- He’s wrong about Jesus being a hardline capitalist, and I’ll just point to Matthew 21:12 for starters (other examples abound in the Bible), where ” . . . Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves . . . .” Of course, that would give Jesus something in common with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in the furniture tossing department, but I digress; and
- If Jesus were a computer user, he’d definitely use GNU/Linux and not BSD, for clearly symbolic reasons. But what distro would he run?
Someone already beat me to the second part of that thought, actually. In the blog openjesus.org, Jesus “wrote” last May the following item:
“In my office I have a few machines, none more important than my Ubuntu box called king. I recently upgraded it to Feisty Fawn, so like some of you I’m going through a bit of an adjustment with some little things. Beryl quit working right, for instance. I could throw a miracle at it or fire up the old omniscience to just know how to fix it, but sometimes even Jesus likes to work things out. I’m a pretty good troubleshooter in my own right, I’ll have you know, and as a recent convert from Gentoo I sort of need something to be broken a little bit to really feel like my Linux desktop is dialed in. I’m sure some of you understand.”
As I wait for the laughter to die down, I have to say that this site could very well be the best satirical site ever (and the line about Gentoo — very true!). No, I’m not just saying that to curry favor with the author.
But it may answer the question what Jesus would run on his desktop. I would have voted for Ubuntu Christian Edition, but never mind. Now His laptop . . . I would be willing to bet Debian is somewhere in the mix, whether it’s Etch or a distro in the Debian family.
(Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
A lot has been written, spoken and debated about the current, um, “motives” that the death star in Redmond has aimed at the FOSS community, and a lot of speculation has arisen as to which distro could be the next Judas, selling out FOSS for well over 30 pieces of silver.
[Note: The religious reference above does not imply that I think the next FOSS domino to fall will be Christian Ubuntu. On the contrary -- if I were a gambling man, I'd put my money on Mandriva. No doubt that Darth Ballmer and the rest of the corporate leeches oozing their way out of that campus off the 405 east of Seattle would love to get a FOSS foothold in Europe, either real or imagined. So my guess is that the hook is baited and they're hoping to reel in Mandriva -- but don't do it, folks!]
What’s lacking from the discussion, however, at any significant length is “why?”
Speculation runs amok, ranging from a boundless greed and loathing in the corporate culture at Microsoft (from the top down) to scaring FOSS developers and users into submission by the threat of a legal sword of Damocles hanging collectively over their heads. But this is all theory and speculation — great fodder for discussion, but nothing concrete.
[Bear in mind, incidentally, that of this writing -- as if someone is holding his or her breath -- Microsoft has yet to release the 235 alleged patent violations. As I wrote in an earlier blog, Sen. Joe McCarthy did the same thing in the 1950s, with a list of Communists in the State Department, none of which was ever named. ]
So without any firm evidence — just a hunch based on what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” — my guess is that Microsoft’s “because” in this whole FOSS harrassment “why” is based on a legal end run that they might try in the courts to reel in FOSS.
Noting the continuous failure of SCO’s case against IBM/Novell/Whomever (a case that was over long ago, but SCO hasn’t realized it yet), Microsoft’s legal tack could be away from suing other companies and convince a court that the distros they’ve lined up and paid for handsomely translate into an admission, in the court’s eyes, that GNU/Linux arguably does violate Microsoft’s alleged patents, and the more agreements with GNU/Linux entities they collect serves to bolster their case. As noted on one blog, a writer wrote, “See, your Honor? These Linux companies knew they were using our patents! Why, they even signed an agreement with us saying so!”
The statement above, of course, is nonsense. But the courts and legislatures are filled with nonsensical arguments and nonsensical bills that have found their way into rulings and into law. The clear and present danger here is that, the climate of the courts being what it is, there is a remote possibility that Microsoft’s strategy — if this is indeed what they’re trying to do — could have, what they call in legal circles, some merit.
As I take my head out from under the hood — rhetorically speaking — of my G3 minitower (code-named Wowbagger — and those of you who are “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fans don’t have to ask), a quick scan of the usual Linux news sites, with cup of coffee in hand, accompanies the following “random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots,” as San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler likes to say:
Late to the party again: No sooner do I ask for an opinion regarding “GNOME or KDE” that LXer — probably the best Linux new source out there — relays an update from Linux.com on the latest in the desktop environment family feud food fight. For those of you (like me) who missed the original tete-a-tete, apparently Linus Torvalds asked Linux users to use KDE over GNOME because “This ‘users are idiots, and are confused by functionality’ mentality is a disease. If you think users are idiots, only idiots will use it. . . . Please, just tell people to use KDE.’
Not to put out this fire with gasoline, but who exactly are you calling an idiot, Linus?
Are these idiots acutal idiots with room-temperature-in-Celsius IQs? Or are these “idiots” simply people who are either not up to speed on Linux yet (raising hand here), or just people who would rather spend their time on simple computing pursuits rather than concentrating on the minutiae of micro-configuring their desktop?
I happen to use both GNOME and KDE desktop environments — GNOME on Wowbagger and KDE on a G3 PowerBook (code-named Arthur Dent; you’re seeing a trend here, right?) — and to this newbie-with-portfolio, both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like them both — let me repeat that: I like them both.
Of the two, though, I happen to think GNOME is easier to use, even though KDE seems to have a wider variety of things to tweak. This “tweakability” can be a blessing and a curse — the latter, of course, when you configure something you can’t configure back, which has happened to me with KDE. And while I may be the guilty party thanks to a lack of knowledge, I have to say that I’ve never backed myself into a corner configuring GNOME.
As I score it, the advantage goes to GNOME, but you won’t find me calling KDE users idiots. Quite the contrary: Open source and free software is about choices, and rather than degenerating into the Mac-vs.-PC arguments of decades past (What? You mean they’re still going on?), the diversity of desktop environments — and there are more than have been mentioned here — should be celebrated.
What would Jesus boot?: I saw this last month, but I wasn’t going to comment on it until now — Ubuntu Linux 6.06 Christian Edition joins a wide cast of secular Linux distros. Jim Lynch at ExtremeTech.com reviewed it here, and while he addresses the same first question I had — specifically, “why a faith-based distro?” — he also points out some of the features that non-Christians may find appealing.
Lynch writes, “After using it for a while, I realized that the Christian theme in this version of Ubuntu had less to do with appearances and more to do with providing a more wholesome environment with controls on content to keep out some of the adult material available on the Internet.”
So you can hold the jokes about this distro, and I offer a sincere mea culpa for asking, “If you uninstall it, does it reappear three days later?” Mea maxima culpa.
Speaking of distros based on beliefs, Buddhists out there might want to take a look at Zenwalk, the distro formerly known as Minislack.
Signing up: While looking for something else, I happened upon The Linux Counter, where a Linux user can sign up and get a number (like the one in the title of this blog) and register your hardware. “For what reason?” you may ask, and that would be a good question. While I don’t think there’s any real advantage or disadvantage to registering, it’s merely a curiosity and, in some small part, it helps researchers keep track of who’s using what distro on what kind of machine in the ethereal cyberworld.